For each of our BioExcel training events we make a limited number of travel bursaries available. We ask the beneficiaries of the BioExcel travel grant to write a blog post for us, either about their experiences at the course, their research interests (in layman’s terms) or a relevant scientific topic.
THE POWER OF KNOWLEDGE
By Jana Gurinova
University of Vienna, Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry
During my childhood I believed without a doubt that it is possible to know everything there is to know about all the disciplines that have been studied in the course of humanity. And even though I grew out of this belief, the reasoning behind it has never left me. Only when we know everything will we be able to make correct decisions, predict outcomes, and create something that is more than the sum of its parts. The same way a book is more than an arrangement of letters, or the human brain is more than a bunch of molecules.
A few centuries ago, the notion of knowing everything was not as far-away as nowadays, and the scholars of those times profoundly influenced our sciences. Just think of Isaac Newton or Leonardo Da Vinci. A portion of Da Vinci’s work was devoted to the invention of a machine capable of flying. However, even though he came close, none of his inventions were actually able to fly, simply because although he did know everything there was to know at the time, the sciences themselves did not know enough. Flying is a privilege of our time, where disciplines have split, developed separately, and then came together again to make a machine weighing tens of tons able to fly.
When it comes to drug discovery, we were not so fortunate. The disciplines did split, and they did develop separately, but somehow they never came back to create this one thing that supersedes them all. A prediction on how molecules will act in the human body.
The more I get to know other disciplines, the more I feel like we truly do not know what our peers are capable of. Knowledge about the capabilities of today’s science is infinitely more powerful than complete knowledge of a single one. The moment you know who to ask and where to look, the impossible becomes reality.
In my case, the impossible became attainable by unifying the work of several disciplines, resulting in a workflow capable of predicting compounds which might be repurposed for the treatment of orphan diseases. The picture shows me presenting a poster of this work at the YMCS in Manchester. But as always, the method is not fool proof, which is why I am eager to get to know many more disciplines to ultimately create a prediction that supersedes its parts and truly creates value.
By Antonio Flores
Universidad de Málaga
The past 20th and 21st of October, I participated in the workshop organized by BioExcel “Workflow Training for Computational Biomolecular Research”, they were two lovely days.
The organizers made us feel at home and we could drink coffee on demand :). Barcelona is an amazing city and the place of the workshop was also very nice, next to the supercomputer “Marenostrum” that we visited; it´s awesome. The only problem is that two days is not enough time to see the city.
The course content was very interesting, although my prior knowledge about workflow managers was very limited, the experts in each manager made the learning and use of programs very easy and I discovered some workflow managers that I could use in the future.
For me, the most interesting part of the workshop was the opportunity to talk with high level experts with whom I could discuss some of my research problems and they helped me to solve many of the doubts that I had before the workshop. I also had a chance to meet other researchers with whom to share concerns and strategies in addition to the possibility of continuing the contact with these people.
I hope soon new workshops or courses are organized for BioExcel as interesting as this. No doubt, I would repeat.
By Esther Camacho
Centro de Biología Molecular Severo Ochoa
The BioExcel: workflow training for computational biomolecular research course held in Barcelona was a great meeting which allowed me to gain a better understanding of the utility of working with workflow managers when you have to deal with big data. I am currently working in a Next Generation Sequencing Core and I was surprised to see that many other colleagues of the field use workflow managers in their labs. I also learned about a kind of workflow managers which I didn’t know (workflow managers without interface) and find them very interesting for my field.
I particularly enjoyed the visit to the Marenostrum supercomputer, one of the highest computer in Europe and the group dinner at La Traviata restaurant where I had the opportunity to speak closely with some of the speakers and attendants of the course. That was very important for a junior analyst like me.
The closing event Bring your own workflow was excellent for discussing our daily job problems and how workflow managers could help us. Here, the experienced speakers gave advice to the attendants about how to deal with these problems. In that sense, the speakers were very helpful and cooperative with us all the time. In the last part, we divided in groups according to our field, so we could make a deeper discussion about the pros and the cons of the different workflow managers and current limitations.
Before attending the meeting, I was concerned that the course would be orientated mainly to proteomics but it was not the case. The course had a good balance between proteomics, genomics and drug design. So, I think all the participants benefitted from the course without feeling that their field was not well-covered.
I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to attend the course. I have met excellent people that were, as well, experienced colleagues of my field. The course has fulfilled all my expectations.